Nurseries across Renfrewshire are bringing play and autonomy into the heart of teaching young children after practitioners completed a highly-praised course.
Around 50 nursery managers and officers from Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, part of the West Partnership, have completed a Froebel and Childhood Practice CPD Certificate, a professional development course developed with the University of Edinburgh and the Froebel Trust.
Friedrich Froebel was a German educator who pioneered new ways of thinking about education for very young children and is most famous as the creator of the first ‘kindergarten’ – a child garden.
Froebelian principles say that children need to lead their own learning through play to become confident learners, and that their environment plays a big part in their development.
Since going on the course, nursery teams in council-run and approved funded private and voluntary providers have been using what they have learned to enhance practices within their centres and classes.
Sandra Brackenridge, Senior Early Learning and Childcare Officer at Foxlea Early Learning and Childcare Centre, said: “Since being on this course, we’ve been putting the Froebelian principles into practice in our nursery. We have changed all our activities to be open-ended so children can be creative and find their own solutions.
“As a team, we have been sharing our experiences with art and creative play, block play, baking, outdoor play and community links with each other.
“I’d want to see more nursery managers and officers have time to go to this course and have the opportunity to embed these principles in their work. I can’t wait to see the impact these principles have on a child’s learning when they get into primary school and into life-long learning.”
Nursery Manager at Stepping Stones Nursery, Lorna Bradley, said: “This course consolidated everything I wanted to do and what I believed was important to help children develop and grow. It helped me see the theory behind the practices and why they are important.
“It has motivated me to study and read again and I’ve been qualified for 25 years. It’s also helped me motivate my staff and everyone is on board with embedding the Froebelian principles. I’ve put forward my depute to go onto the next course.
“It has changed our ethos and how we deliver learning for children. We have taken a step back and let children have their own autonomy. We’ve also started growing our garden, which helps children appreciate living things and, in the end, appreciate themselves.”
Michelle Goodwin, Depute Head of Centre at Hillview Early Learning and Childcare Centre, said: “My main learning was that it is best to keep things simple. Natural surroundings are great places for children to develop and flourish on their own.
“Some of my colleagues have already been on this course and when they came back to the centre, they were incredibly passionate about embedding the Froebelian principles into our nursery. I think it is important that all staff get this opportunity, so everyone has that same passion and ethos.
“Our nursery is already working with the Froebelian principles, so I want to continue to develop our practice now that I’ve been on this course.”
Head of Centre at Glenfield Early Learning and Childcare Centre, Alison Lauder, said: “For me, the biggest learning was that children need hands-on experiences outdoors with nature. That’s why I chose to create an area to house chicks and hens and involve parents and children in looking after them. Having a two-way partnership with parents is great. We learn from them and they learn from us.
“During the course, we did a practical lesson on block play. We all sat down on the floor and played with the blocks around us, but we were all playing as individuals. Then the course organiser said we could help ourselves to small parts and we started building things and helping each other out. Knowing we could do what we wanted helped us be more creative and we need to allow children the same opportunities.”
Julie Lindsay, Early Years Graduate at Williamsburgh Early Learning and Childcare Class, said: “The course has consolidated everything I believed in. It has given me the confidence to join a new team and drive the Froebel principles forward. Everyone in the team has excitedly taken the principles on board and are eager to get on with it. It’s been very empowering.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm from the team to go on this course too. Everyone should get a chance to go on it. It really brings meaning to everything we are already doing to support children’s early learning and development.”
Senior Practitioner at Maxwellton Park Nursery, Roslyn McLardie, said: “I learned a lot from this course, such as the importance of children being outdoors and in nature. It has reinforced that children should experience natural play and growing things.
“It also changes your perception on the importance of little things that support the bigger picture, such as relationships. I think it would be beneficial for all members of staff to go on this course and the learning is spread across all teams.”
Gayle Millar, Nursery Manager at Carli’s Kindergarten, said: “As a nursery manager, this course has given me the confidence to upskill my staff and support children to have valuable outdoors opportunities. The Froebelian principles are inspiring staff to be creative and allow children to get experiences they wouldn’t normally get day-to-day.
“I have two nurseries and two out-of-school care groups and I’m developing the Froebelian principles across all four services. This means the children can come in and play with the younger children during outdoor learning experience.”
Depute Head of West Primary School and Early Learning and Childcare Class, Vicki Wiszniewski, said: “It was a huge experience. I am a new depute and it has helped me make positive changes within the nursery. Three members of staff went on the course with me and it was great that we all had the same mindset and that our staff are being brought along with us in terms of the changes we are making.
“Many of the principles were things I already believed in, those from my childhood and raising my own child, but I just didn’t know they were Froebelian.
“This training is an incredible opportunity and the changes we have been able to make in our nursery have been incredible too. Children now have an improved free-flow environment, both inside and in the outdoor play and growing area which is in the shared playground with the primary school. It is a long time for children to be indoors all day and they have the freedom to choose where they want to be.”
For more information on careers in a Renfrewshire nursery, visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/ELCCareers.